WHAT’S NEWS IN THE FIELD
In this section, current issues of importance to pupil services and special education administrators will be reviewed. These items will be replaced after a few months with other developing topics. Any comments may be attributed to the Executive Director and do not reflect an official position of the organization.
PA Senate Rejects House Budget Plan (September 21, 2017)
The PA Senate has formally rejected a conservative budget plan passed by the House. This, in essence, restarts the negotiation process. Republicans in the House and Senate must now attempt to work with Governor Wolf, who wants the budget passed by the first of October.
PA Submits ESSA Compliance Plan to USDE (September 19, 2017)
On Monday, September 18, Governor Wolf signed off on the commonwealth’s compliance plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The plan – which was formulated after 18 months of meetings with educators, parents, and other stakeholders across the state – was submitted to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her approval. Now state officials must wait for USDE’s response to the plan. Initially, USDE will conduct a compliance and completeness check, followed by a peer review, an informal phone discussion; and then a formal letter will be sent laying out the federal department’s recommended revisions to the plan. All of this is expected to happen within the next 120 days. The plan establishes what PDE has described as “ambitious yet attainable” goals. Those goals include raising student performance, increasing graduation rates, having English learners move toward achieving English language proficiency, shortening state exams for third through eighth graders, establishes a new school report card that expands the indicators used to measure performance and places less emphasis on state test scores.
Deputy Secretary Stem Reports on PA’s STEM Initiative (September 13, 2017)
At the State Board of Education meeting on September 13, 2017, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem reported that, over the past year, PDE has focused energy and resources on the state’s STEM initiative. As per his report, school administrators and counselors are advised that there will be an increasing need for STEM-H workers. He also said that, by 2020, over 60% of jobs in the commonwealth will require some type of postsecondary education.
State Board Provides Update on ESSA Plan at its September Meeting (September, 13, 2017)
At its September meeting, the State Board of Education reported that PA will be filing its ESSA plan with USDE on September 18. The plan is the culmination of two years of work. USDE will review the plan and PDE will then have a 15-day window to make any necessary revisions. Subsequently, USDE will provide a written determination within 120 days. Highlights of the plan include academic proficiency goals. One goal aims to cut in half the percentage of non-proficient students on PSSA and Keystone exams by 2030. Another goal is to cut in half the number of students who fail to graduate, with cohorts being both four and five years. The plan also includes a reduction in time required for standardized testing. Beginning in Spring 2018, testing time will be reduced by up to 20% across all affected grades. In Spring 2019, testing windows will be condensed from three weeks to two weeks to minimize disruption to the instructional program. Testing will also be moved to later in the school year.
K-12 Cuts and School Choice Proposals Nixed by Legislators (September 8, 2017)
On September 7, legislators in both the House and Senate have shot down Trump administration plans to use federal funds for vouchers or public school choice. Legislation passed by both the House and Senate also bars the administration from making serious cuts to spending at the US Department of Education. In fact, legislation that received bi-partisan support for the full Senate Appropriations committee requires the secretary of ed. to receive congressional approval in order to create a school choice initiative using federal funds. Current plans provide approximately $1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers and $68.3 billion for the USDE, which includes an increase of $29 million and is contrary to administration wishes.
The administration was looking to increase Title I by $1 billion to fund a new program that would use federal funding for school choice. It also wanted to provide an additional $250 million to the Education Innovation and Research program aimed at facilitating private school choice. Current spending proposals provide level funding for special education state grants and eliminate a proposed $165 million Trump administration cut to career and technical education funding.
New PA Immunization Regulations Get Underway (September 4, 2017)
New state regulations regarding required student immunizations got underway as schools opened their doors for the 2017-18 school year. Included in the new requirements is the need for seniors to have a received a second meningitis vaccine by the fifth day of school. This is in addition to the first meningitis vaccine, which is required prior to entering seventh grade. School officials across the commonwealth have been working hard to get students into compliance, and most have significantly pared down the number of students who have yet to comply with the new regs. Many students are being allowed to stay in school as long as they can provide proof that required vaccinations are scheduled with a healthcare professional, or if they have a religious or medical reason for not getting immunized. In many cases, school nurses and pupil services administrators have led the charge in helping to bring students into compliance, and numbers of students in jeopardy of being excluded from school have been greatly diminished. At the Bangor Area School District, Student Services Director Dr. Joseph Kondisko reported that there were initially nearly 500 students out of compliance. That number was whittled down to 48 by the time school began. Ultimately, only five students were excluded, but they have already returned to school. Dr. Kondisko also reported that at Bangor many parents had followed through on getting their students immunized, but held off on providing the needed documentation to the school. Please visit the drop-down titled State under the Government link on this site for more information.
Bruno to Helm NAPSA (January 6, 2017)
Dr. Frank M. Bruno, Pupil Services Director for the William Penn School District in Delaware County, has taken office as the 2017 President of NAPSA. Frank is a past-president of PAPSA and serves on its current Board of Directors. His presidency at NAPSA should further strengthen the ties between our state and national organizations. Dr. Bruno is the eighth Pennsylvanian to hold the office of President in NAPSA.
Beth Bahn to Retire (November 17, 2016)
Beth Ann Bahn, a familiar name to Pupil Services administrators, who has guided the PA Department of Health’s Division of School Health Services for many years, has announced her retirement as of December 31, 2016. Beth has been a featured speaker at PAPSA conferences and has worked closely with the association on health-related issues. It is uncertain when or if her position will be filled.
New U.S. Secretary of Education (February 22, 2017)
The question of, “Who will be the next U.S. Secretary of Education?” Ahas been answered.Betsy DeVos is a noted activist, favoring school choice, vouchers and the common core curriculum. A non-educator with degrees in Business Administration and Political Science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, DeVos is a billionaire through her marriage to the heir to the Amway fortune. As Chair of the Alliance for School Choice and the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos has pushed an agenda to strip funding from public schools in favor of charter and private education. The NEA has issued a statement that she has, “Done more to undermine public education than support students.”
Executive Director Selected (June 8, 2016)
Dr. Douglas Arnold has been selected as the Executive Director Elect for PAPSA. He will serve a one-year internship with current Executive Director Bob Cormany before taking over on July 1, 2017. Doug has been a Past-President of both PAPSA and NAPSA. He previously served as Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services in the East Stroudsburg Area School District and retired as Superintendent of the Pleasant Valley School District in Monroe County. Doug was interviewed at the April 2016 Conference in Lancaster and his appointment was finalized at the Board’s June 23rd meeting.